- The Ironist -- Create an observer of events outside her own direct experience, someone who knows more than she lets on, who jokes with us (the readers) but who also indirectly reveals a complex reading of events she is describing. M.H. Abrams, in A Glossary of Literary Terms, says, "...in Greek comedy the character called the eiron was a dissembler, who characteristically spoke in understatement and deliberately pretended to be less intelligent than he was." This will be a little like unreliable narrator, but there is the crucial difference that the unreliable narrator doesn't know that he's unreliable. The dissembler or ironist or trickster is a wiseass, a clown perhaps, a teller of tall tales. 500 words.
I spent a little time flipping through my pocket-sized moleskine idea book, and I found little premise that I had jotted down quite some time ago. What follows is the intersection of that idea and the aforementioned writing prompt.
Calvin Bishop hadn't written a single decent line of text in two weeks. Or had it been 4? I’m not really sure. I’m just writing a story about a guy writing a story. In any case, Calvin hadn't been productive in a while, and his publisher wasn't very happy about it. They had been expecting a draft of the first half of his new story, and when he sent them a 50-page manuscript, they decided he needed some assistance. The only problem was that the company was short-staffed. The uncertain nature of print media had forced the company to scale back in order to be more “efficient,” more “agile,” and more “able to adapt to the ever changing market.”
Personally, I’d love to write a few paragraphs detailing how this changing market resulted in all of the middle-tier writers creating a thriving market for medium quality self-published books, while the bottom-tier writers all left the industry, but that’s not really what this story is about. Also, that sentence was far too long to be enjoyably read.
Calvin Bishop was one of the company’s more lucrative authors, relatively speaking. And in spite of his recent setbacks, they needed him to put out another book, so the company put an intern on an airplane (economy class, of course) to help Calvin get back on track.
The way I see it, Calvin is one of those writers who has a great deal of technical skill, but he tended to tread the same ground over and over again. Consider Calvin’s most popular character: a fantasy warrior named Raltor. Raltor had been the protagonist of half a dozen books set in a generic fantasy world, Xor, which was as well constructed as teenager’s tabletop roleplaying game campaign. Incidentally, there was thriving community of fans on the internet that created a tabletop game based on the world. How recursive is that? I suppose it’s worth mentioning that this very same, highly dedicated fan community maintained a very thorough Xor Wiki, which—if you’re not sure what a Wiki is—is a user-maintained database filled with detailed information about the characters, places, and objects that made up Xor. At first, he was quite flattered by this, but somewhere around the 10th book, he began to feel constrained by the world that he had created. I think he published the first few books before he had a good idea of what the world would be like, so there were details in his later books that retroactively modified tiny parts of his earlier works. The details were minute, of course, but the mind of the internet reveals all such detail. Anyway, I really don’t want to give you the idea that Calvin was a bad writer. I mean, he’s accomplished a great deal more than I have. I just want to make it clear that he is most certainly stuck in a rut at the beginning of this story. And so that was when he started working with the intern from the publishing company.
Actually let me start just a bit further back for dramatic effect. Let’s say that Calvin was working, or at least he had been trying to work. He ended up watching a few videos on the internet and falling asleep on his desk. At some point he shifted his arm on top of the keyboard, which caused him to write twenty pages of something like this:
This was easily the best thing he had produced in several days. It’s really unfortunate to see such a talent languish, but thankfully this is just the beginning of the story. This is when the first important plot point of Calvin’s story takes place; that is to say that this is the point where I introduce the reader—you—to the intern. And I’d like to do so with a knock at the door. Actually, it was several knocks at the door; it took a while for Calvin to wake up and notice that he was about to have company.